So Erica, from NorthWest Edible Life, posted the following picture to Twitter and asked folks “What is Homesteading To You?”
So. “Homesteading”… It’s convenient. It’s good shorthand for what most of us tend to be doing which, I suspect, falls roughly in line with what’s on the list in that picture: D-I-Y rather than B-U-Y, embracing frugality for a whole slew of reasons, reconnecting with the daily-living skills of our ancestors to a greater or lesser degree, actively taking part in the rhythms of the land that sustains us. But, if you’re a white person (which, by the looks of things, many of us self-identified homesteaders – urban or otherwise – are) living pretty-much anywhere other than Europe, but particularly in North America, the term “homesteading” has a pretty fraught history. If you’re Canadian, some of the stuff our ancestors did (and which is still going on – so maybe try writing your MP about the need for reparations and a good, hard look into the MMIW situation?), directly or indirectly, was genocide. Here. Where we’re growing our own food and taking great joy in planting the Three Sisters together in our gardens.
So as much as I find the word useful (my twitter bio says “I live in 1821”, among other things) in terms of how it manages to imply wood stoves, fibre arts, cast iron cookware, home-grown veggies, pre-electric machinery, wild-crafting/forraging, seasonal rhythms, cozy-warm candle-light, and making cheese from scratch… it’s also a bit of a problem.
So I have to ask: Is there another word I could be using? Something that takes the rural implications (and Quiver-Full-reminiscent family isolation) out of “back to the lander” while hanging onto the seasonal rhythms and self-sufficiency? Something that pushes “DIY” to a more extreme and broad-spectrum conclusion than stenciling “Riot Don’t Diet” onto a hacked-up t-shirt? Something that takes the term “Productive” out of the assembly line and the cubical farm and plants it firmly in the rich, creative soil of an anti-consumerist, pro-interdependence It-Takes-a-Village home and community?
I’ve seen “Green Living” tossed around. “Voluntary Simplicity” (although that just doesn’t fit our stuff-intensive house or people-intensive home-lives) has popped up a few times, too. I rather like “Punk Domestic” and “Radical Homemaker”, in significant part becuase they invoke the activism and, frankly, broke-ass necessity, of some of my personal Do-It-Yourself Skills. My wife and I, as part of our Power Dynamic, use the language of fealty to describe What We Do. As such, the language of the Chatelaine also seems appropriate: The whole idea of the “Keeper of the Keys” deciding who – and in this case what – is and isn’t allowed entry into the Keep (be that BPA, Monsanto, & CAFO-raised critter-flesh, vs thrifted clothes, home-grown veggies, & eight million mason jars… or whatever your personal dichotomies are), maintaining the stores, spending a heap of time on fibre arts and home-preserving in an eminantly social, but also practical and necessary, way. Even the notion of a whole village turning out to handle the bulk of the harvest together (although heaven and earth know that this is hardly an out-of-date way of doing things).
Anyway. If all of the above gives you an idea of what I mean when I say “(Urban) Homesteading”, if you have any suggestions, please let me know.
– Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 In my case, this is for fun. In the case of actual Medieval Ladies of the Manor? It was because the work was basically never-ending. The silver lining, when there was one, was that most of it was automatic-pilot enough that, by the time you hit puberty (and had been doing this stuff for 10+ years) you could at least hang with your ladies-in-waiting/relatives/room-mates and be social while getting all of it done.